No Roads In (2017) [Oceanside International Film Festival 2017]

No Roads In is a music documentary but also one about how music can transform lives.

Written by Christopher Leeson and directed by Josh Wong, this documentary follows a band as they record an album in an abandoned home in the Canadian Prairies.  One of them finds this place while driving and brings the rest back to record a more natural, organic album in terms of sound and how it comes to be.  The film follows these men and looks into their lives through interviews and music.  The men shown include Adam Naughler, Jon May, Blake Reid, Aaron Young, and Jason Valleau who all work on the album together and have their lives and hopes discussed by themselves and others.

The main attraction of the film, besides the obvious music, is the look of the film.  It’s shot beautifully with some stunning drone sequences and careful, deliberate framing on other shots such as the band setting up and recording inside the abandoned house.  The cinematography by Shaun Henning is done with talent and a flair for images that catch the eyes and look beautiful no matter what they are showing or about.  His filming style and framing choices show that he either knows what he’s doing or has a very natural talent for visual arts.  His work elevates the documentary and makes it look like one expensively shot film.

Helping these images is the editing by Ron Joe who took all these stunning shots and cut them together so that they made sense and rolled into one another easily.  His editing works with the cinematography style and with the film itself, giving it a sort of rhythm to go with its story.

The music by Blake Reid and his band is omnipresent here and as it is a music documentary about how one specific album was recorded outside of a studio and in a house with walls barely standing, it makes sense.  The way the story is molded around the music with stories matching the songs being told and other events fitting the songs being shown, creating an organic storytelling style for the subject at hand.

The story told in No Roads In is an interesting one, a personal one, which is well-told and shot.  Unfortunately, a few parts do feel a bit long even though the film is a short 1 hour and 18 minutes, something that is surprising but not too annoying.  The film looks stunning and sounds great making full use of access to a drone to shoot establishing scenes and to the band for its music.  The synergy within the band is palpable and attracts the viewer’s attention and keeps it even in the longer moments.  This one of those documentaries about how an album was recorded that is a pleasant watch whether or not the viewer is a country fan.